Unapologetically Palestinian: A Jiffy w/ Meera Adnan
Meera Adnan is a contemporary ready-to-wear label, based in Gaza, Palestine, founded by Meera Albaba. The brand launched in 2020 and is best described as one that is romantic and nostalgic, with a hint of edge and drama. Albaba’s work focuses on reclaiming narrative and is influenced by religious, political, and local references that tell personal stories from the “city under siege.”
Meera Adnan’s debut collection drew inspiration from the 1980s in Palestine, where men were more expressive in emotions and style, and women were more fierce, individualistic, and stylish. The collection is reminiscent of a more sentimental time when people found pleasure and fun even in the smallest details.
The brand acts as a platform which amplifies Palestinian voices. Albaba aims to revive the local textile industry and build a platform for Palestinian creativity for a prosperous future Palestine. We sat down with Albaba, not to discuss fashion, but instead shed light and better understand what it is like living in Gaza, the "city under siege."
Q1: The world has witnessed the occupation's heinous attack on Gaza in most recent weeks. How are you and your family doing now?
It took me a while honestly, to force myself to stop being so disconnected and get back to reality after the ceasefire was reached. I found it incredibly hard at first to leave the house and go back to the normal life of work and social obligations. I’m eternally thankful that my family and I are okay and that the only damage was psychological but even then, it does not make it easier to deal with.
Q2: How do you, friends and family cope after an attack like that?
I don’t think we ever cope with it, because we all know that this isn’t the first time and won’t be the last. Even when we're not under F35 bombs, we are still under an occupation and a siege that is determined to kill us slowly. The hardest part is growing up my whole life with these repetitive cycles of horror and terror as a kid. Now, as an adult, I am expected to comfort the young. I honestly do not know what to say, but at least we hope that somehow we won’t live through that ever again, although we probably will.
Q3: How is Gaza like as a city?
I tend to describe it as my dearest concrete jungle, because it’s full of tall buildings due to it being one of the most populated areas in the world with little landscape.
Q4: What is it like living in Gaza?
It is surprisingly calm and warm. A small city with all your friends and relatives down the block makes it truly feel like home.
Q5: Gaza is often portrayed as a city mainly made up from rubble. How accurate is this depiction of your city? & how often do you come across torn down buildings?
Gaza is like any other city with the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to the daily life, social life, and even poverty. The only difference is that our struggles are purely political and have been upheld and going for 73 years, because it is political. People often cannot sympathise with you unless you fit the stereotypical victim picture of someone with no will and privileges begging to be saved/fed/taken care of. Gaza is such a beautiful, warm city with charming architecture and beaches. We also have ruins, refugee camps, poverty and malnutrition which were systemically imposed and us.
Q6: It’s the weekend, what would your plans be?
When I was younger and into going out, I would either go to my favourite restaurant for a bingo night and have shisha with friends, or go to the YMCA and just hang around. Now I usually spend it with family watching political satire or visit my grandmother in the camp, where I get to see all my aunts and their kids. On Friday we either go to the sea or have a movie night. We also sometimes rent a villa with a pool with my friends and just barbecue and chill under the warm sun.
Q7: You often share the messages you receive on Instagram about people asking where some of your Western products are from. This was something super interesting to see. It’s something you take for granted. Do international franchises or shops/ products exist in Gaza or is everything homegrown? Can you explain?
Well I always get asked this question. In Gaza, we have many international drugstore brands but they’re mostly double the price you get abroad due to the high taxes imposed on us from the occupation. However, many other international brands are not allowed in when they have branches in the occupied territories. Also, we are not allowed to get packages sent personally from abroad no matter what they include. Most of the stuff I own, I either get when traveling abroad or get from people coming into Gaza for a visit.
Q8: What are some of your favourite shops in Gaza?
I love most restaurants in Gaza, which is the thing I miss the most abroad. Gaza has so many homegrown agricultural products and organic products and such amazing food. Also, I love the shopping experience in Gaza where shops are just all over the street(s) and you can just walk around in the same streets that my parents used to shop from when they were my age.
Q9: For many living in Gaza, access to electricity is limited. Do most houses run on generators?
Most houses do not have the luxury of having a generator. Fuel is incredibly expensive in Gaza compared to neighbouring countries. Most people cannot afford to buy generators. Also, most houses install LED lights that are charged by electricity. Few people like my family have solar energy, but it’s not popular at all because it’s also costly.
Q10: This statement has been widely shared online in most recent weeks “We're not living, we’re surviving?” Do you believe you share the same sentiment?
I feel like life in Gaza is very unstable to the point where people just live in the moment because the future seems very dark and unpredictable. People are not choosing to be resilient because they have the luxury of choice, they do it because it is the only possible option. We are very tired of being portrayed as heroes, which in a way harms us instead of working tirelessly to fix the situation.
Q11: Can you walk us through the process of travelling in and outside of Gaza?
The traveling process from in and out of Gaza has always been a struggle specially since the second Intifada, which took place in 2000. After the uprising and the destruction of Gaza's International Airport, which had only been operating for two years, Palestinians in Gaza were left with only one crossing: that being the Rafah Borders, which we share with Egypt.
On the other hand, Erez crossing with the occupied territories only operates for people who are lucky enough to get a permit issued by the Israelis. The Rafah border is also unfit for human use, operating for only a few hours a day. People are forced to wait for hours when given access and there are delays, always. During the siege, it only operated for a few weeks and as such, only few people were allowed to travel.
Today, the situation is the same and even though the Rafah borders open daily, the Egyptians only allow around 300 people out of Gaza, resulting in waiting lists that last for many months. The process of going back has also became so humiliating where we usually spend 48-72 on the road coming back to Gaza. This is because as Palestinians we are being forced to go on certain roads with certain checkpoints – unlike the Egyptians – so we spend days sleeping in the middle of the desert while Egyptians can reach Rafah from Cairo in 8 hours.
Q12: What is something you hope people would understand about Gaza?
That the siege we are under is not just a humanitarian classic siege. It’s a political and cultural siege that aims to break our spirits and isolate Gaza more from the rest of Palestine. Gaza is not a humanitarian issue that can be solved with money and employment.
Q13: What’s your favourite restaurant in the city? And what do you they serve?
My favourite restaurant is Bellini because it has one of the most interesting menus. They serve a wide range of Italian, Chinese, and other international cuisine(s) with the most mouth-watering appetisers.
Q14: Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. What does that feel like for you?
Growing up I often felt like I don’t have any personal space because everyone knows everyone and it’s like just a very small melting pot where there’s no room for individuality or self-expression. It always daunted me that I was the only kid feeling misunderstood or trying to rebel. But as I grew older, I’ve learned how to navigate that and create my own personal and safe space and discovered that so many felt or feel this way. I also got to understand and appreciate being raised in a place where it felt like a big community always has your back.
Q15: What is something you wish people would understand about living under a colonial occupation?
I truly hope for people to understand that it’s not a humanitarian issue and ignore the political and historical contexts of it, in order to truly be serving allies. It’s a daily issue of existence and justice.
Q16: As a fashion designer living in Gaza, what is the most challenging thing about operating from there?
I think movement, travel and restrictions on good(s) has been a key factor as well as being culturally and intellectually isolated from the world. This isolation is hindering us as people and workers. It is also truly damaging our potential and capabilities, which creates this massive feeling of hopelessness.
Q17: How do you see the fashion scene in Gaza becoming in the next few years?
Surprisingly, when I launched my label two years ago I think I was the first, and then right after, several super cool labels have launched from Gaza. I know many that will be launching in the near future. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air to see young people battling one of the most vicious colonial powers, and yet remain determined and daring to dream whilst challenging all obstacles to create something incredible. I know that this is only the start and much greater things are coming in the next couple of years.
Q18: Where do you see Gaza in the next few years?
It’s a tricky question because it’s hard to imagine the future living on Gaza. On one hand, we remain hopeful for our own mental well-being but things are still not seeming to be going in the right direction.
Q19: What can we expect from Meera Adnan in the future?
More creative and cool designs, collaborations, and unfiltered story telling. We are still experimenting as a brand and we are in no rush to box ourselves but more enjoying the process of playing around and trying new things. I’m also looking forward to challenging myself more as a creative.